Kaupapa Māori PHOs set up to fail

By Mānia Clarke

The managing director of a Bay of Plenty Māori health provider says Māori PHOs were set up to fail.

Janice Kuka of Ngā Mataapuna Oranga told a Waitangi Tribunal health inquiry that they are under-resourced compared with their mainstream counterparts.

"This cycle of reliance on Crown funding keeps us locked into a failed racist and minor cultural system unable and unwilling to change,” says Kuka, “Meanwhile, our people continue to have poorer health outcomes and die at an earlier rate than non-Māori."

The Tauranga Māori PHO Wai 1315 claimant outlined to the Tribunal why the health system has marginalised Māori, referring to “the inadequate resources we were given as a kaupapa Māori PHO in our establishing phase as opposed to non-Māori.”

Kuka told the inquiry that the Māori voice was further eroded at a national level in 2016 when the government revoked the requirement for DHBs to have a Māori health plan.

She says since they were established in 2003, the PHO funding formulas have ignored Māori health needs.

“It's across the country averages,” she says, “What they never took into consideration is that actually Māori don't fit into averages because we're sicker, we have more chronic diseases, we visit the doctors more often than non-Māori.”

Kuka told the panel that there were once fourteen Māori health organisations but now there are only four, including Ngā Mataapuna Oranga, due to the untenable funding criteria.

“Our retention of staff is low.  We're not viewed as an attractive career option.  This is exasperated by the poor pay parity between Māori community nurses and hospital nurses.”

Kuka wants a Crown apology and repayment costs to all Wai 1315 claimants for under-funding from the government over the past 17 years.